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Steelers taking calculated risk with Wallace

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The deadline for using franchise tags is Monday, but the Steelers have all but decided they won’t use one on receiver Mike Wallace.
The cost of a franchise tag for wide receivers — it is projected at a little under $9.5 million — isn’t feasible for a team that is right up against the projected 2012 salary cap and has more on its offseason to-do list than just signing Wallace.
There is a risk in placing the highest tender on restricted free agents, as the Steelers are set to do with Wallace.
Teams that would have had to give up first- and third-round picks in the past to sign Wallace only lose a first-round pick if they lure him away from the Steelers.
That change in the collective bargaining agreement — and cost — has stirred speculation that Wallace will be one of the more sought-after free agents come March 13 at 4 p.m., with the line for his services forming behind San Francisco.
Or New England.
Or Cincinnati.
Or Baltimore.
The reality is that the cost of signing Wallace away from the Steelers is still a prohibitive one.
Teams that have to give up a first-round pick for Wallace also have to overpay the Pro Bowler since the Steelers have the right to match any offer.
That combination is why Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said last week at the NFL Scouting Combine that he would be hesitant to sign a high-profile restricted free agent.
It is also enough of a deterrent for me to think that Wallace is anything but as good as gone if the Steelers don’t use the franchise tag on him.
I know it only takes one team –- and the Patriots, it should be noted, are flush with extra draft picks and salary cap space -– to overpay for a player.
And that it happens every year during free agency.
But the Steelers, given their own constraints and what they would receive if they lose Wallace, won’t be rolling the dice when they offer him the highest tender.
They will be taking a calculated risk, and one that is the correct play when it comes to Wallace.

— Scott Brown

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